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Defense Lawyer in Finta Nazi Trial Challenges Existence of Gas Chambers

December 15, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The attorney defending Imre Finta, on trial here for Nazi crimes, challenged in court Wednesday the existence of gas chambers.

Douglas Christie questioned an expert witness from the City University of New York on whether the extermination chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau did, in fact, exist.

He used a controversial book written by a Jewish historian to substantiate what he called documented evidence that facts about the gas chambers had been grossly exaggerated.

Cross-examining Professor Randolph Braham while brandishing the book “Why Did the Skies Not Darken?” by Professor Arno Mayer of Princeton University, Christie said that Braham must “recognize that historians now hold there is little evidence for the gas chambers.”

Mayer’s book questions the numbers of Jews who died during the Holocaust and the manner in which they died.

In the courtroom, Christie’s contention drew snickers from about five non-Jewish Hungarians who have been regularly attending the trial and who have previously locked horns with the Jewish Holocaust survivors in attendance. The groups sit on opposite sides of the courtroom.

Wednesday’s attack on Braham’s testimony was in line with Christie’s attempt last week to discredit the testimony of two Hungarian Holocaust survivors from Israel.

Christie said Wednesday that based on Braham’s one visit to Auschwitz, Braham “didn’t know what a gas chamber is.”

At this, there was some laughter from the jury, which often appears mesmerized by Christie.


Braham refuted Christie’s charge, saying he based his information on survivors’ accounts. Christie contended that “there were no written orders for the gas chambers.”

Braham, who responded quietly and somewhat haltingly to Christie’s brash assertions, testified that “many Hungarian Jews ended up in the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau,” including “many of those found unsuitable for labor.”

Wednesday was Braham’s third day of testimony at the trial of Finta, who was a captain in the Nazi-controlled Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie during World War II.

Finta, 77, a retired Ontario restaurateur, has pleaded not guilty in Ontario Supreme Court to eight counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including manslaughter, forcible confinement and robbery. He is charged with the forcible confinement of 8,617 Jews in the ghetto of Szeged, Hungary, in June 1944.

During the cross-examination, Christie also elicited an acknowledgment from Braham that Jewish leaders in Szeged, as members of the Jewish Council, compiled lists of Jews to be deported. Those Jews who cooperated with the Nazis were permitted to go to Switzerland and were not charged after the war, Christie stated.

Braham, saying he was “morally torn here,” admitted it had, unfortunately happened, but that they had “entered into a deal to save their lives.”

Christie replied, “So Hungarians entered into a deal with the Germans to save their lives.”

Christie tried to draw an analogy to the American and Canadian internment of Japanese-origin citizens of the two countries.

Braham replied that given the disparate conditions, Jews “would have loved to be in the shoes” of the Japanese.

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